How to make your company's budget Christmas party brilliant

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nIf you think a budget Christmas party for your team will make it a dud, think again. We all know we’re facing a recession, and savvy employees will appreciate your efforts when you’re finding ways to show your appreciation for their hard work.

Last Christmas? Because of the pandemic, many employers were still heading online to celebrate. But there’s nothing like gathering as a team in-person to celebrate Christmas. It’s a chance to help nurture connections and thank people for their dedication.

And being able to get together strengthens the company culture, the glue that binds teams together. The good news is that employers are having in-person celebrations this year. But given that prices are rising and budgets are getting more and more stretched, it may all be about scaled back gatherings.

So wherever your company decides to hold its party, let’s look at some budget party activities that won’t dampen the festive spirit (just as long as you, the employer, can still provide the refreshments!)

White elephant gift exchange

Think Secret Santa – with a twist. Everyone brings a wrapped gift to the party, and picks a number to show in which order they’ll get a turn.

How does it work?

  1. Colleague number one chooses a present and opens it.
  2. Colleague number two can steal colleague number one’s present, or choose a present from the unopened pile to open.
  3. Colleague number three can steal either of the first two presents, or choose their own.

And on and on…

If a gift is stolen more than three times, it’s ‘frozen’.

Decide beforehand if the theme is joke presents (you might be surprised how coveted a ‘belly button lint brush’ turns out to be), or ‘normal’ gifts under a certain budget (really, who’d actually turn down a scented candle?)

Christmas murder mystery

A DIY murder mystery game will show which employee really does possess killer instinct. And this idea, with no costs involved, could be perfect for your budget Christmas party. Especially if your team is into theatrics.

This one takes a bit of prep. But it’s something your office party planner could really get their teeth into. Here’s a guide on how to set one up.

Team members can access their roles via their phone, or print out their scripts beforehand. With a Christmas theme like ‘Who killed Father Christmas?’ or ‘Murder at the Christmas jumper party’, players hunt for clues and compete to be the first to find out who did the deed.

So just a regular day at the office, then…

Festive party games

A few well-chosen party games can have employees brimming with good cheer, even at a budget Christmas party. And if people get to talk to colleagues they wouldn’t normally spend time with, they can be effective icebreakers too. Here are three ideas:

  • Who’s the baby? Ask everyone to bring in or email a photo of them when they were little (they get extra points for festive- or winter-themed pictures). Put them up on the wall and ask everyone to guess who’s who.
  • Colleague bingo: Who still gets a Christmas stocking? Who leaves all their shopping until a panicky Christmas Eve dash round the shops? Who’s accidentally regifted an unwanted Christmas present back to the original gifter? This bingo game will get everyone talking and mingling to find the answers to some pressing festive questions.
  • What’s in the Christmas stocking? Fill a stocking or a pillowcase with 10 Christmas-themed items. Then using just their sense of touch, players have to guess what’s inside. The winner is whoever writes down the most correct answers.

Christmas scavenger hunt

Not keen on staying in the office? Feel that other venues may be out of your price range? Use your local area as the venue for your Christmas party. Doing a scavenger hunt on smartphones can be a fun way to get out and about, moving between different locations to find clues and solving puzzles in the place your staff know best.

There are options to check in at locations, master team tasks and solve puzzles within a certain time limit. And if it ends up raining or snowing? There are always cafes or pubs to stop off at…

Crafting for creatives

Does your team have an artistic side? How about painting, cutting and crafting while you tuck into snacks and drinks?

Making things together during a Christmas craft session can be far more fun than you’d think. Yes, really. Plus if the creations are actually useful? Extra festive points.

How about:

  • Ugly Christmas jumpers: Invite everyone to come dressed in a plain top or jumper, with a few things they can include on theirs. Then go big on embellishments like string lights, bows, ornaments and fabric paints – with a prize for the silliest.
  • Festive wreaths: Use fresh or dried foliage woven around a hoop, with mini pine cones, dried orange slices and cinnamon added in too.
  • Ceramic tree decorations: painted in neon-bright colours to bling up Christmas trees at home. Could you discover some hidden artistic talents hiding in the team?
  • Christmas crackers: Maybe you as the employer can provide the surprise gifts inside?

Recognise and reward your team

Gathering together to celebrate in December can be a great team-bonder. But be sensitive to the fact that some employees may not celebrate Christmas. Plus not everyone will feel they can party in person, whether that’s because of caring commitments or health considerations.

Aside from budget-friendly festive party ideas, there are ideas here on how you can reward your team in other ways around Christmas. Recognising and rewarding your team either by treating them to fun activities or actively acknowledging their contributions over the year is sure to generate some festive spirit. That could be achieved with an honest and heartfelt speech, even if the bonuses are diminished this year, or even eliminated. But if your team is small, finding a way to call out each person's contributions publicly will mean a lot.

Whatever your budget, or whatever you end up doing, here’s what counts: getting colleagues together to have some fun and strengthen the relationships that are crucial for happy, hard-working teams throughout the year.

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